The Problem of Pain: Natural and Prescription Medication for Fibromyalgia

As we covered last week, Fibromyalgia differs from other pain conditions, such as rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, in that the pain originates in the brain versus the perceived site of pain. It is for this reason that NSAIDS and the majority of prescription pain medications—targeting the perceived site of pain in the muscle, versus the actual origin of pain in the brain—are ineffective for treating Fibro pain. In addition, commonly used medications such as Ibuprofen damage the stomach lining and can lead to the formation of stomach ulcers, whereas the active ingredient in Tylenol—acetaminophen—depletes the body of glutathione, an essential amino acid and antioxidant.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many prescription pain medications carry side effects that mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, to include fatigue, muscle spasms, impaired memory and cognitive functions. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that have proved safe and effective for treating Fibromyalgia pain, as Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum outlines in his book, From Fatigued to Fantastic (2007).

Rhus Tox

Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy that is inexpensive and side-effect-free. Though it is likely not sufficient alone for long-term pain management, it is an excellent place to start, and can be used in conjunction with more aggressive pain management therapies.

Herbal Remedies

Herbs such as wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, passionflower, and valerian root have a calming effect that is non-sedating and effectively relieves muscle pain and pain-related anxiety. Similarly, boswellia, cherry fruit, and willow bark—from which Aspirin is made—can decrease inflammation by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), while ginger inhibits the production of Substance P, the spinal fluid that allows for transmission of pain signals to and from the brain.

Supplemental Therapies

The combination of ribose and magnesium, found in supplements such as Ribose Cardio, can effectively relieve pain and support mitochondrial function production of ATP, the body’s primary energy source. Meanwhile, tryptophan—a powerful amino acid—works by raising the body’s serotonin levels, which in turn relieves pain, and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3 have anti-inflamatory effects. EFAs are involved in hormone production, fluid balance, cell-membrane formation and support of the body’s immune system. Interestingly, symptoms of deficiency mirror many Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue symptoms, such as sluggishness, memory loss, muscles aches, brittle nails and hair, GI upset, depression and moodiness.

Prescription Medications

While the side effects of many prescription drugs are not worth the benefits, a select few have proven to be effective and relatively light in experienced side-effects. Prescription pain medications such as Neurontin, Gabitril, and Lyrica work by increasing the body’s response to gamma-aminobutyric-acid (GABA)—often referred to as the “calming neurotransmitter.” Similarly, anti-depressants such as Cymbalta, Effexor, Paxil and Zoloft increase the production of serotonin while inhibiting Substance P spinal fluid. Essentially, these medications are effective because they target the brain’s pain-response center versus the perceived site of pain, and are most effective when taken in conjunction with natural and homeopathic remedies.

S.H.I.N.E Protocol

The natural and prescriptive remedies described above are designed to support the S.H.I.N.E protocol, to include Sleep, Hormone balance, Immunity support, Nutrition and Exercise. Next week, we will take a closer look at S.H.I.N.E, and the additional corresponding therapies our clinic provides.

Dr. Teitelbaum, Jacob. From Fatigued to Fantastic! 3rd ed. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Pub. Group, 2007. Print.

http://www.endfatigue.com/treatment_options/Shine_treatment_protocol.html

Neurotransmitter health and balance: GABA for being Zen

GABA is a brain hormone that promotes feeling of calmness and alert relaxation. The GABA system is at the center of fighting anxiety and keeping feelings of overwhelm at bay.

The very fact that anti-anxiety medicine like clonazepam, diazepam and alprazolam are some of the most frequently prescribed drugs,  indicate that GABA system dysfunction is very prevalent today.

 

Symptoms associated with decreased GABA or imbalances in the GABA system:

  • Feelings of anxiousness or panic without reason
  • Feelings of dread
  • Inner tension, easy excitability and inner restlessness
  • Feeling overwhelmed without reason
  • Restless mind
  • Cannot turn off your mind when it is time to relax or sleep
  • Concern or worry about things that are not significant
  • Anxiety and inability to concentrate due to your mind jumping around

Drinking teas, black or green, and eating fermented foods help boost GABA activity in the brain, and focused supplementation has been shown to make a tremendous difference not only in calming feelings of anxiety and restlessness, but increasing brain levels of GABA.

GABA system dysfunction is dependent upon many modern lifestyle factors, which can be identified and corrected with appropriate lifestyle and focused GABA system specific nutrients for a steady and calm emotional state.

Neurotransmitter health and balance: Dopamine for contentment

Dopamine is the hormone of contentment and feeling centered. Feelings of discontent, hopelessness, decreased stress tolerance and volatile temper is a sure indication that your dopamine system may not be functioning as well as it should to ground you.

Adventure seeking, habitual overuse of anything – chocolate, sugar, alcohol or other substances – may also be related to low dopamine.

Dopaminergic neurons in the spinal cord are important in pain modulation and have been found dysfunctional in conditions like fibromyalgia with much body pain.

Movement disorders like Parkinsons disease are strongly linked to low dopamine levels in the central nervous system.

 

Symptoms of low dopamine or decreased dopamine activity include:

  • Decreased motivation for tasks
  • Trouble starting and finishing tasks
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Losing temper over small things
  • Can’t handle stress
  • Anger and agression while under stress
  • Tendency to isolate yourself
  • Lack of concern for people you are close to

The body makes dopamine from the amino acid L-Tyrosine, then turns it into L-Dopa, which is the direct precursor to dopamine.

Iron is essential for effective formation of dopamine in the brain, iron is needed to convert tyrosine into DOPA, in addition, you need Vit B6, folic acid and oxygen.

If you are iron deficient or anemic, you may want to optimize your iron levels in addition to supporting dopamine pathways with precursors.

Testing in addition to thorough symptomatic analysis may help you diagnose dopamine deficiency, which can be treated through a systems based approach, correction of nutritional deficiencies and other factors influencing dopamine system dysfunction.

 

Werner Vosloo ND, MHom